1st Marine War Dog Platoon and 2nd Marine Raider Regiment on Bougainville

The 1st Marine War Dog Platoon served with the 2nd Raider Battalion, 2nd Marine Raider Regiment on Bougainville. The platoon consisted of 48 enlisted men working in pairs as handlers for the 21 Dobermans and three Shepherds, plus six enlisted instructors and headquarters personnel. It was under the command of First Lieutenant Clyde A. Henderson, a Cleveland high school teacher, who had been an amateur Doberman trainer for a decade before the war. According to Lt. Henderson, "We felt lost when we came out here, everyone looked on us as a curiosity and wondered what we were supposed to do. We weren't too sure ourselves." Lieutenant Colonel Alan Shapley's 2nd Raiders was billeted near 1st War Dog on Guadalcanal before the invasion. One day, the Colonel saw a dog exhibition and asked that the platoon be attached to his Raiders. After weeks of training, and overcoming the skepticism of the Marines, combat handling of the dogs was developed. The dogs were trained not to bark.The 1st Marine Dog Platoon landed on Bougainville November 1, 1943. The First Marine Dog Platoon was sent ashore just one hour after the first Marines hit the beach, under heavy mortar and rifle fire and were dispatched to various companies according to prearranged plans. On D+2, the Japanese began firing at the dogs. Caesar, who carried the first war dog message of the war, was hit twice, once close to the heart. Privates First Class John Kleeman and Rufus Mayo were Caesar's handlers and he saved their lives by alerting them to a Japanese attack. On D+7, Jack, a German Shepherd messenger, and one of his handlers were hit. Despite receiving severe back wounds, Jack reached his other handler with a message asking for medics. With the phone lines cut, Jack was the only means of communications the advance party had that day. Four dogs were injured on Bougainville. Six dogs were recognized for heroism.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
Date Photographed: 
Monday, January 10, 1944
Cape Torokina